Comments on Pope Benedict’s Assisi III Interreligious Prayer Gathering
By Robert Sungenis
Delivered in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the valley below Assisi
October 27, 2011
by Benedict XVI
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Distinguished Heads and Representatives of Churches, Ecclesial Communities and World Religions,
Twenty-five years have passed since Blessed Pope John Paul II first invited representatives of the world’s religions to Assisi to pray for peace. What has happened in the meantime? What is the state of play with regard to peace today?
At that time the great threat to world peace came from the division of the earth into two mutually opposed blocs. A conspicuous symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall which traced the border between two worlds right through the heart of the city
In 1989, three years after Assisi, the wall came down, without bloodshed. Suddenly the vast arsenals that stood behind the wall were no longer significant. They had lost their terror. The peoples’ will to freedom was stronger than the arsenals of violence. The question as to the causes of this dramatic change is complex and cannot be answered with simple formulae. But in addition to economic and political factors, the deepest reason for the event is a spiritual one: behind material might there were no longer any spiritual convictions.
The will to freedom was ultimately stronger than the fear of violence, which now lacked any spiritual veneer. For this victory of freedom, which was also, above all, a victory of peace, we give thanks. What is more, this was not merely, nor even primarily, about the freedom to believe, although it did include this. To that extent we may in some way link all this to our prayer for peace.
R. Sungenis: Apparently, the pope is suggesting that the reason the Berlin Wall came down was because of the blessing heaven gave the world due to the 1986 Assisi event in which pagans and anti-Christians prayed to their gods for world peace. This is apparently the present state of Catholicism.
Pope Benedict also seems to be forgetting the 1984 consecration that John Paul II performed that allegedly fulfilled the 1929 request for the consecration of Russia, which was to result in heaven’s promise of world peace. Instead, Pope Benedict puts the spotlight on Assisi 1986.
This is quite ironic. The history of the Catholic Church contains no precedent or teaching that the Church is to gather pagans and non-Christians for prayer with Catholics, yet John Paul II made these interreligious prayer gatherings the centerpiece of his 26 year pontificate. The irony is exacerbated by the fact that heaven had been calling for the consecration of Russia to be performed by the reigning pope for over five decades prior to John Paul II, and yet each pope, whether deliberately or inadvertently, did not do the consecration. What was the result? In 1929 Our Lady warned that if the consecration was not performed, all kinds of wars and turmoil would inundate the earth, which is precisely what we saw from 1929 to the present day, all due to papal negligence.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that John Paul II’s consecration of the world in 1984 fulfilled, at least in part, the request of Our Lady in 1929. Several logical deductions flow from this:
(1) the 1984 consecration implicitly admits that all the popes, beginning from Pius XI, were either disobedient towards heaven or extremely negligent in their duties;
(2) that John Paul II himself did not believe his 1984 consecration would bring the peace that heaven promised since only two years later, in 1986, he organized the interreligious prayer meetings of Assisi in which pagans and non-Christians were called upon to pray for the very peace that was supposed to have been given by heaven from the 1984 consecration.
(3) Pope Benedict wants us to believe that Assisi 1986 accomplished in three years what over six decades of waiting for the consecration of Russia could not accomplish. The amazing thing about this is that Pope Benedict seems to have no shame for this glaring inconsistency.
Pope Benedict: But what happened next? Unfortunately, we cannot say that freedom and peace have characterized the situation ever since. Even if there is no threat of a great war hanging over us at present, nevertheless the world is unfortunately full of discord. It is not only that sporadic wars are continually being fought – violence as such is potentially ever present and it is a characteristic feature of our world. Freedom is a great good. But the world of freedom has proved to be largely directionless, and not a few have misinterpreted freedom as somehow including freedom for violence. Discord has taken on new and frightening guises, and the struggle for freedom must engage us all in a new way.
R. Sungenis: I can only conclude from the pope’s own words that we never really attained peace in 1989, and if that is the case, then the pope has contradicted himself. Either the world was blessed with peace in 1989 or it wasn’t. If heaven granted peace, it would have certainly lasted a lot longer than just the year of 1989.
Has the thought ever crossed the pope’s mind that perhaps the reason we don’t have peace today and really didn’t have it in 1989 was because the pagan assembly in 1986 wasn’t approved by heaven and was actually a sacrilegious affront to heaven?
Has the thought ever crossed the pope’s mind that perhaps the second reason we never attained peace (the peace that was promised by Our Lady in 1929 if the consecration of Russia was performed) was because John Paul II never performed in 1984 the precise consecration that was requested in 1929, as even Sr. Lucia confirmed in three separate instances prior to 1989?
Unfortunately, similar to the disobedience of the popes before him who did not perform the consecration requested in 1929, Pope Benedict continues the trend. Apparently, he has found a better way to bring peace. Instead of gathering all the bishops to himself and doing precisely what heaven asked for, he gathers all the pagans and non-Christian religions and tells them to pray for what he and his bishops were supposed to pray for.
Pope Benedict: Let us try to identify the new faces of violence and discord more closely. It seems to me that, in broad strokes, we may distinguish two types of the new forms of violence, which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of their motivation and manifest a number of differences in detail.
Firstly there is terrorism, for which in place of a great war there are targeted attacks intended to strike the opponent destructively at key points, with no regard for the lives of innocent human beings, who are cruelly killed or wounded in the process. In the eyes of the perpetrators, the overriding goal of damage to the enemy justifies any form of cruelty. Everything that had been commonly recognized and sanctioned in international law as the limit of violence is overruled. We know that terrorism is often religiously motivated and that the specifically religious character of the attacks is proposed as a justification for the reckless cruelty that considers itself entitled to discard the rules of morality for the sake of the intended "good". In this case, religion does not serve peace, but is used as justification for violence.
R. Sungenis: If terrorism is the obvious reason there is no lasting peace, then it appears the pope is contradicting himself again, since terrorism was being perpetuated in the name of religion in 1989 as well as it is in 2011. Moreover, the chief proponent of terrorism was not the Islamic “extremists” that the Western media has convinced us are the world’s only villains, but the very Zionists that the pope and his cardinals have helped promote, as did his papal predecessors before him.
Zionism has a sordid history of terrorism that stems back to the Irgun and Stern gangs led by Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres and David ben Gurion in the 1940s. They decided that they were the new Joshuas of the New World Order and went into Palestine and performed all kinds of rape and pillage upon the Palestinian people; and then continued that massacre through the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
Just two years before the 1984 consecration and four years before Assisi 1986, Ariel Sharon butchered hundreds of Palestinian Christians in Sabra and Shantila. So bad was the massacre that the prime minister of Israel berated Sharon and relieved him of his command. Even in 1989, the year Benedict XVI is using as a symbol of world peace, Yitzhak Shamir bombed the Beka Valley killing 15 children and an unspecified number of their parents in February of that year. On April 14, 1989, the Israeli police and armed Jewish settlers attacked a disarmed Palestinian village, Nahalin, killing 8 and wounding 50. But, of course, the wax nose of Nostra Aetate and ecumenical dialogue (which rarely includes the Moslems, if ever) isn’t permitted to consider these Zionistic acts of terrorism as constituting valid breeches of the pope’s wish for peace. These are simply chalked up as “Israel protecting itself against enemies” whereas Islamic retaliation is always depicted as irrational “terrorism.” Of course, the pope couldn’t very well indict the Zionists since in his Assisi III audience sits the very emblem of Jewish Zionism, Rabbi David Rosen, the director of the American Jewish Committee.
Pope Benedict: The post-Enlightenment critique of religion has repeatedly maintained that religion is a cause of violence and in this way it has fuelled hostility towards religions. The fact that, in the case we are considering here, religion really does motivate violence should be profoundly disturbing to us as religious persons. In a way that is more subtle but no less cruel, we also see religion as the cause of violence when force is used by the defenders of one religion against others. The religious delegates who were assembled in Assisi in 1986 wanted to say, and we now repeat it emphatically and firmly: this is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction.
R. Sungenis: The sad fact is, “Assisi in 1986” was the epitome of “the antithesis of religion” and that which “contributes to its destruction.” If the pope believes that heaven is going to bless the earth with peace when the popes of the Catholic Church neglected, for the 57 years from 1929 to 1986, the continual cry from heaven to consecrate Russia; especially as heaven watches these last two popes replace the needed consecration with a throng of pagans praying to their false gods, then this pope is in a worse situation than the pagan religions.
Here is the remedy: start preaching the gospel to these pagans (as St. Paul did to the pagan Athenians in Acts 17) instead of inviting them to pray to their false gods. Only then will heaven give peace from “religious wars.”
The last two popes (John Paul II and Benedict XVI) have done precisely what the OT kings of Israel did, and for which God condemned them. Instead of obeying what God told them to do to quell the hostile nations around them, the Israelite kings made pacts with the surrounding nations and accommodated their gods, thereby corrupting Israel and setting the stage for their judgment from God. The result was that God judged Israel and sent the nations against her. Similarly, instead of obeying heaven’s command to consecrate Russia, the popes of the 20th century made peace pacts with Russia and other nations. So, the same will happen to Pope Benedict that happened to the kings of Israel. If you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind.
Pope Benedict: In response, an objection is raised: how do you know what the true nature of religion is? Does your assertion not derive from the fact that your religion has become a spent force? Others in their turn will object: is there such a thing as a common nature of religion that finds expression in all religions and is therefore applicable to them all?
We must ask ourselves these questions, if we wish to argue realistically and credibly against religiously motivated violence. Herein lies a fundamental task for interreligious dialogue – an exercise which is to receive renewed emphasis through this meeting.
As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature. The God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God who put "suffering-with" (compassion) and "loving-with" in place of force. His name is "God of love and peace" (2 Cor 13:11). It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.
R. Sungenis: Apparently, Pope Benedict feels compelled to make the same apologies for magisterially-directed Catholic institutions (e.g., the Inquisition) for which John Paul II also felt the need to apologize. I don’t think there would be much argument that the Inquisition would have condemned Assisi I, II, and III as a breach of the Catholic faith. So it comes as no surprise that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI must make a concerted effort to distance themselves from the judgments of the Inquisition. This is what we should expect when the popes and bishops of the 20th century have decided that the Catholicism practiced for the previous 19 centuries was wrong in its attempt to remain separate from the world and use strong measures to protect its people from false doctrine.
I wish the last two popes had been only half as diligent as the Inquisition was in eliminating false doctrine from the Church. If so, then heaven would surely bless us with peace for being faithful to God. But after witnessing Assisi III, heaven is only going to bring more death and destruction, the same death and destruction that Our Lady warned would come if the popes did not obey heaven’s commands.
God’s peace starts with Christ, not world peace. Pope Benedict won’t have any real peace until he himself obeys what heaven told him to do: (1) consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; (2) follow the Bible and the history of the Catholic Church which never suggested much less condoned interreligious prayer gathering with pagans, and, last but not least, (3) stop encouraging the formation of a one world government and police force.
Pope Benedict: If one basic type of violence today is religiously motivated and thus confronts religions with the question as to their true nature and obliges all of us to undergo purification, a second complex type of violence is motivated in precisely the opposite way: as a result of God’s absence, his denial and the loss of humanity which goes hand in hand with it.
The enemies of religion – as we said earlier – see in religion one of the principal sources of violence in the history of humanity and thus they demand that it disappear. But the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognizes any criterion or any judge above himself, now having only himself to take as a criterion. The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.
R. Sungenis: Once again we have the usual suspect (Hitler) propped up to be the world’s piñata, but neither this pope nor the last would ever publicly acknowledge that long before Hitler came on the scene the Jewish Bolshevists in Russia were murdering Christians and non-Christians by the truckload; and that Jewish icons, such as Karl Marx and his Communist Manifesto, are responsible for more “concentration camps” in the east than Hitler ever dreamed of.
In fact, in light of the fact that the 20th century popes failed to consecrate Russia, Our Lady warned in 1917 and 1929 that Russia, if not consecrated, would be used of God to wreck havoc in the world in the 20th century. Our Lady said nothing about Germany, probably because their time was very brief. But the Jewish Bolshevists overtook the Christian Czar in Russia in 1917 (the very year Our Lady appeared) and haven’t stopped fomenting wars and turmoil since. We can thank Russia for creating both Communism and Zionism, yet what pope has been courageous enough to mention this fact? The only Catholic prelate courageous enough has been Bishop Williamson, and the Zionists have been trying their best to get Pope Benedict to silence him. But, of course, pointing to the Zionist Jews as the problem wouldn’t be very good for Catholic/Jewish dialogue.
Pope Benedict: Yet I do not intend to speak further here about state-imposed atheism, but rather about the decline of man, which is accompanied by a change in the spiritual climate that occurs imperceptibly and hence is all the more dangerous. The worship of mammon, possessions and power is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage. The desire for happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as appears in the different forms of drug dependency. There are the powerful who trade in drugs and then the many who are seduced and destroyed by them, physically and spiritually. Force comes to be taken for granted and in parts of the world it threatens to destroy our young people. Because force is taken for granted, peace is destroyed and man destroys himself in this peace vacuum.
The absence of God leads to the decline of man and of humanity. But where is God? Do we know him, and can we show him anew to humanity, in order to build true peace? Let us first briefly summarize our considerations thus far. I said that there is a way of understanding and using religion so that it becomes a source of violence, while the rightly lived relationship of man to God is a force for peace. In this context I referred to the need for dialogue and I spoke of the constant need for purification of lived religion. On the other hand I said that the denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence.
In addition to the two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God.
Such people do not simply assert: "There is no God". They suffer from his absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness.
They are "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace". They ask questions of both sides. They take away from militant atheists the false certainty by which these claim to know that there is no God and they invite them to leave polemics aside and to become seekers who do not give up hope in the existence of truth and in the possibility and necessity of living by it. But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others.
These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practised. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible.
Therefore I have consciously invited delegates of this third group to our meeting in Assisi, which does not simply bring together representatives of religious institutions. Rather it is a case of being together on a journey towards truth, a case of taking a decisive stand for human dignity and a case of common engagement for peace against every form of destructive force.
R. Sungenis: The sympathy for agnostics is misplaced, especially since the pope’s sympathy does not translate into preaching the Gospel to the agnostics that he brought to Assisi. Instead, the agony of the agnostic is exacerbated by forcing them to watch the Catholic pope ignore his mandate from heaven to preach the Gospel; and watching him instead plead with pagan religions to do what he and his bishops alone should be doing. The one who we should feel sorry for is Pope Benedict, since he doesn’t seem to know what the real problem is or even who the real enemy is. It is just another case of Peter betraying his Lord. The pope is busy chastising Christians for using religion as a pretext for conflict, yet his own house of clerics continue in the disgusting sins of homosexuality and pedophilia, but he does absolutely nothing in the way of discipline against these sins, just as John Paul II did nothing. Perhaps if the pope had admitted that it was the Church’s own scandal – a scandal that he exacerbated when he was a cardinal by turning the other way – that is the chief cause for agnostic indifference, perhaps we could get somewhere. But as long as the pope wants to point the finger in the other direction; and as long as he avoids his own responsibilities, then he will have no peace from heaven.
Pope Benedict: Finally I would like to assure you that the Catholic Church will not let up in her fight against violence, in her commitment for peace in the world. We are animated by the common desire to be "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace". Assisi, October 27, 2011
R. Sungenis: This is precisely the pope’s problem. He is not a “pilgrim of truth.” He HAS the truth. He has 2000 years of Catholic truth behind him, much of which was attained by martyrdom and bloodshed. All the pope needs to do is live it and proclaim it. But never once have the “Assisi popes” given the truth to those they called for prayer. No mention about the need for salvation in Jesus Christ has ever been preached at the Assisi meetings, twenty-five years running. Instead, the popes depended on the pagans and non-Christians for “truth” and communication with God. The only “violence” being perpetuated here is that which the pope himself is creating by disobeying the commands of heaven.
October 29, 2011